In recent years we have seen the book become digitalized. With devices such as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook, more and more books are offered electronically. Indeed, Amazon claims that they sold three times more ebooks first half of 2010 compared to same period of 2009. While this may be inevitable, there is another trend waiting to happen. As the cost and effort of publishing a book goes down, so does the barrier to publish. We are seeing the rise of self-publishing.
Couple of years ago I contacted a publisher. Since I have written some text for my New Technology course, would this be of interest to any publisher? I got redirected around and finally sent a proposal. I got an answer back that if I would change the focus to include something and exclude something else, there might be a possibility. I never had time to follow this through and gave up. Today, if I wanted to publish a book I can simply upload it to Amazon and make it available to the Kindle.
What Amazon is doing is lowering the barrier of publishing. Anybody can upload their book and offer it for sale. Amazon takes 30% and you get 70% which is the similar model for Apple App Store. 70% is huge if compared to the sorry rate offered by publishers. Of course the publishers perform many useful tasks, pay an advance and promote the work. With the Internet, some of these functions might be done in different ways. Advertisement is few clicks away with Google and can be highly targeted.
Granted we will see lots of rubbish and if this becomes popular, it will be difficult to find anything. However, we might also get brilliant pieces that publishers would not approve. J. K. Rowlings had her first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, rejected by dosens of publishers. And when she was finally accepted for publication, she was warned not to give up her day job. How many interesting book ideas got killed due to publishers? Self publishing might even create new genres of books. Something we have never seen before.
Many players want to enter the ebook market. Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble are all in the game. Now Google wants to enter and started to sell ebooks December 2010, and recently they bought ebook technology company.
As Kranzberg’s law states, technology in neither good or bad. Self publishing ebooks is a disruptive technology. Pubishers will not like this development and they will fight to protect their business model, much like the record companies. They will resist but eventually need to face how the times are changing. Publishing will still provide lots of useful functions but they will eventually have to adapt.